Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Death of the English Pub

'When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves.
For you will have lost the last of England.'
- Hilaire Belloc

Paul Kingsnorth is one of the best of the journalists we have in Britain. He has written two extremely important articles on the English pub which set our struggle at the Lewes Arms in a broader context. We urge you to read them.

Calling Time
The traditional English pub is being eaten alive by corporate consolidation
Guardian Weekend, 23 July 2005

In 1900, there were more than 6000 breweries in the UK. Today there are just over 500. Thirty three have closed since 1990, taking over 130 regional and national beer brands with them. The last decade has seen the end of, among others, Morrells of Oxford (founded 1782), Brakspear of Henley (1799), Castle Eden of Hartlepool (1826), Morland of Abingdon (1711), Ruddles of Rutland (1857), Courage of Bristol (1702) and Mitchells of Lancaster (1871) - names that were sources of national heritage, regional pride and local employment sold off, shut down or taken over. In 2005 we will say farewell to Strangeways of Manchester (brewers of Boddingtons) and Newcastle's Tyne Brewery (home to Newcastle Brown). They are unlikely to be the last.

Then there are the pubs which the breweries serve. Twenty of them close every month - converted into housing, theme bars or luxury flats. Half of those that remain are in the hands of ambitious and rapidly-expanding pub corporations which have set about remaking them with the help of loans from Japanese banks and marketing techniques developed in pizza and sandwich chains.

Rural pubs are disappearing with unprecedented speed, leaving many villages 'dry' - bereft not just of a place to drink but of the community focus that went with it. In towns and cities, giant high street drinking sheds - known in the trade as 'high volume vertical drinking establishments' - open in their place, selling alcopops to teenagers and fuelling the 'binge drinking' phenomenon. The last ten years have witnessed an explosion of identikit chains - O'Neill's, All Bar One, the Slug and Lettuce, Wetherspoons - in what critics call a whirlwind 'McDonaldisation' of the traditional pub.

Read the full article here

Do You Remember an Inn?
A smoking ban could be another nail in the coffin of the English pub
New Statesman, 7th November 2005

Farewell, then, to the smoky old pub. As a ban on smoking in most pubs looksset to become law, it seems that the hazy, convivial, unpredictable atmosphere of the traditional local is on the way out. The edgy, boozy, glamorously grimy institutions that inspired Samuel Johnson, G K Chesterton, George Orwell and Patrick Hamilton are to be legislated into history, in the name of public health. In their place, we can no doubt look forward to an uninspiring, government- approved selection of depressingly hip wine bars, all steel and smokeless dining spaces, in which "consumers" (not "customers", and certainly never "locals") partake of their sensible daily allocation of alcohol units from glasses marked with health warnings, and none of the bar staff risks the certain death that would come about by straying within ten metres of a smoker.

Read the full article here


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